Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wetness Unavoidableness

How to avoid the wetness unavoidableness: in all my twenty seven years of flying I have accumulated thousands of hours of flying, and still I managed to stay dry. How? (Uh, except at least 10 UN-eventful water landings, including once in the Sandy Beach surf break, intentionally). I'll tell you how: LUCK and wisdom … no kidding aside!!

I was the first one off the hill after a few lame attempts at Manics launch in very light winds. A few pilots hiked to the upper Cactus launch after my attempts to launch in super light north winds with no avail. Good decision actually. But still I tried. And tried again.

After about an hour of 'parawaiting' it was finally blowing into the Manics launch barely, but I thought "OK, maybe do-able". I launched and headed straight for the lighthouse in the "Anti-Gravity machine. Easy, good soaring conditions, but I did work the first bowl to the right of the lookout for a while, and as I got higher I worked the climbing rock, and then as I got higher I worked the highest peak, all the while pretty cautious of the lighthouse ridge that has been known to throw a mean rotor off of it at the very least. NOTE: you need to be VERY cautious of the lighthouse ridge in all conditions that exist in soarable winds at Makapuu. Then I knew I had it. Soaring 200 to 300 feet above the lighthouse in good lift. Hell, I thought it was perfect NW conditions.

Divot Steve already had his gear out on launch and was right behind me. Steve launched with much enthusiasm right after he saw me get up high and headed towards the lighthouse at Manics launch height. I looked down at the ocean near the lighthouse and there was Steve, very low, and very deep in the compression of the 1000 foot cliffs and maybe even in the lee of Rabbit Island. I yelled into the radio "Dude, you're way too low, too far out, and you need to head back to the beach."

Over the years I've seen many pilots low at the lighthouse ridge thinking that the ridge lift extends all the way out and that they'll get lift if they push on. Actually, the lift gets worse after the lookout due to the compression of the winds on the hill and if you're low, you're screwed. Many a good pilot has been suckered into this thinking. (Me too!) At least Torrey Pines has a beach … Hee hee, it's a nude beach too!

The key to launching in a low cliff launch is to maintain the lift and not to get into the compression of the hill. The winds that are blowing into the hill compress and the lower you are on the hill the less lift there is and the more compression there is.

So, if you launch from Manics launch at 175 feet msl at 10 mph you are in the bottom of the lift band, and also in the compression. If you fly to the right where the cliffs climb going eastward then the farther you go the higher the cliffs are and the higher the lift band is as the wind compresses against the cliff.

I have a general rule after soaring the cliffs off of Manics (Lazy mans) for the last twenty years: if I don't get good lift after the bowl to the right next to the lookout just past the lower bunkers, I turn left again to gain height from the lookout or go to the beach, or maybe the wind shifted and I'll get up at Crazy mans launch. If not, I'm looking for the least likely beer buying LZ I can find that's safely into the wind, e.g., the parking lot, etc.


If you do fly too far out, immediately head for the beach and if you're below Manics launch on the return, do EXACTLY what Divot Steve did and head out for open and calm flat water and perform a safe water landing away from surf and rocks. Immediately extract yourself from your harness (hopefully before hitting the water approximately 10 to 15 feet above it) and swim safely away from your gear.

You might be your own lifegaurd, and hopefully you're wearing a PFD. (It will help!)
If you do find yourself swimming with your gear, gently swim upstream away from your lines. Detach yourself from your harness and avoid kicking your feet and entangling yourself in the lines.

I hope most, if not all of you have a hook knife and safety lanyard tied to you to cut away. People have drowned landing on the beach safely…! Even in a creek.

Swim completely away from your gear. Check your situation and if safe, grab your gear by the wing tip and swim it in. It's VERY IMPORTANT to remember your glider weighs 100 times its normal weight when wet, and with the lines it can drag 10 people down the beach in the surf. Be very careful in surf.




Brazilian Ray said...

ALWAYS keep a LZ in reach, that is my 2 cents.
Brazilian Ray

Geronimo said...

Thanks for the sage advice. Well said.

Thom said...

This started off as another Reaper Tale, intentional water landing at Sandy's??? and I thing there was one on Catalina Island that I remember hearing about??? I guess I will have to hear those again.

The analysis of the light house compression on a Norhterly Flow day seemed spot on and all should take hede.

I did a forward launch out of Cactus right after Pete launched. That should be a clue that it was way to light to launch Manics. I got over to the light house with some elevation but slowly sunk down and barely made the LZ.

Launching from Manics at this time was a doomed flught from pull up unless your Pete with a few years of experience and a hot brand new En-D glider, oh its a 'C' but someone got some time from a girl in blue dress to get that rating.

Judgement, Judgement, Judgement is all I am saying. My last splash was due to poor judgement, I was tired and flew anyway, fell asleep at the helm and woke to a wet dream, ahh, nightmare that is.

It is unfortunate that so many of us have splashed during our flight historys. But alas we have been oddly lucky that nothing serious has ever happened.

My back yard has had it's share of drying wings. If our club has a 'Bag of Luck' it has gotta be getting pretty soggy.

No more water landings boys and girls.

Thanks for the write Pete.